Over the years, BMW has developed plenty of four-cylinder engines and has made a difference in the market. However, they are best known for their inline six-cylinder engines which made the brand what it is today. BMW’s S54 engine is known amongst experts as their magnum opus of engines.
Why is the BMW S54 Engine so special?
When we are looking for the best BMW engine, we are looking for power, speed and reliability at the same time. The S54 engine is the higher-tier in terms of power next to the BMW M54 engine, which is generally used in E46 M3 and Z3M models. The S54 is a 3.25L six-cylinder beast with dual vanos and increased compression ratios, compared to earlier models.
The S54 is a naturally aspirated M3 l6 engine, with 320 whp, that was used in sport BMWs in the early 2000s. The downside of a naturally aspirated engine is that boosting its power is rather expensive.
Turbocharging the engine is possible but it costs quite a lot. If modifications are made, the S54 can reach all the way up to 600 whp. The horsepower record is held by an engine boosted to 902 whp with a 664 lb-ft torque.
BMW cars with the S54 engine
The S54 six-cylinder engine is used in a wide variety of BMWs, ranging from 2000 – 2011. The models that used this great engine are as follows:
- 2000 – 2002: E36, 37, 38 Z3M
- 2000 – 2006: E46 M3
- 2002 – 2011: MF3 Roadster Wiesmann
- 2003 – 2004: M3 CSL E46
- 2006 – 2008: E86 and E85 Z4M
BMW’s S54 engine reliability
Speaking about reliability, the S54 is hands down the most reliable BMW M-Series engine ever produced. Of course, when talking about reliability, maintenance and servicing should be taken into account as they play a great part in keeping an engine running smoothly.
All engines age, even the S54. However, we’ve seen this engine last for many years, with only a few common maintenance interventions needed.
How long does an S54 engine last?
The S54 engine has limited design flaws and they are rarely fatal. Most of these sport engines last all the way up to 100,000 – 125,000 miles. Some S54 engines have lasted more than 250,000 miles.
When you’ve passed more than 80,000 miles on a BMW, you will most likely want to change the rod bearings, timing chain and tensioners of your engine.
Common S54 problems
Of course, there are some engine problems. As with every engine out there, you need to be prepared for the maintenance and know what issues might arise. The most common issues with the S54 Engine are vanos oil pump unit problems and failures. It will cost you between $1,000 and $2,000 to repair it.
The water pump is another common element that breaks in most BMWs and it needs to be replaced every 100,000 miles. These vary between $400 and $800 and there are even some DIY options under $300.
If your car was manufactured between 2000 and 2003 and it has an S54 engine, you might also have rod bearing issues. This part was been fixed for engines produced in other years.
How to maintain your BMW S54 engine properly
Like most BMW engines, you will need to change your water pumps every 80,000 or 100,000 miles. Replace your rod bearings at the same mileage as the water pumps. Oil changes are generally recommended every 5,000 miles, but change them at the latest every 7,500 miles.
Your ignition coils and spark plugs will need to be replaced at least once per 50,000 miles. And last but not least, the pulleys and belts of your S54 engine should be replaced at least once every 100,000 miles.
Other notable BMW engines
This almost five-liter V8 monstrosity makes BMW E39 M5 the beastly sports car it is known to be. It is a naturally aspirated engine that was produced between 1995 and 2005. It comes in 8 different options ranging from 3,498 cc to 4,941 cc in the S62SB50. The S62 engine was greatly used in the 1996 – 1998 BMW 5 Series (E39), as well as the BMW 7 Series (E38). These engines have since then gained popularity and become labelled as bulletproof.
The N55 was replaced by the more recent and more powerful B58 engine in later models. The N55 was what made a great argument for using direct-injected, turbocharged straight-six-cylinder engines in BMW. This engine suffered a lot of faults but proved a high level of performance.
This is another naturally aspirated V8 engine that was quite innovative in taking the V10 Formula 1 technology and making it its own thing, working in a sports car. It’s a smaller and lighter engine, that fit the M3 BMWs at the time. With a high-end RPM limit of 8,400, the sound this engine makes is astonishing.
BMW engine FAQ
Where are the engines for BMW made?
The engines for BMW automobiles are generally made and assembled in Munich, Germany. The BMW 3 Series eventually became so popular that BMW couldn’t keep up with the demand and had to expand their production in Regensburg, Bavaria.
Are BMW engines good?
Despite many opinions on BMW reliability, the BMW engines have made a name for themselves. Great performance and speed are all they care for. From straight-six-cylinder engines to insanely powerful V8 and V12 engines, BMW has made it all through years of giving the public what it wants – driving pleasure at its finest. Yes, BMW engines are good.
Is the BMW straight six engine good?
V6 engines are great for smaller sporty cars, like the ones BMW likes to make. The special form the V6 six-cylinder engine has opens space under the hood for modifications and turbos. Not only that, but the V6 engines are mounted much lower, which further lowers the center of gravity for your vehicle.